A Call to Cook or Deep Fried Dandelion Wine: A Year of Cooking with Charles and Crystal

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Our cookbook tracks a year in our lives through food and the traditions that accompany its preparation and enjoyment. We created twelve recipes each, following a monthly format in order to cover special occasions as well as day to day cooking. These recipes are drawn  from our experiences as adult cooks in a college setting in order to allow greater reflection on the process and meaning of cooking for ourselves and with our friends and families. The twenty-four resulting recipes are accompanied by brief reflections on the background of their origins and significance.  Furthermore, we compared and contrasted our recipes in order to present a fuller picture of the variety of meanings that can be assigned to food in our multi-cultural contemporary society.  While we both grew up in South Carolina, we have very different eating habits.  For instance, Crystal is a herbivore and Charles is an omnivore.  These differences helped us to create a more diverse cookbook.

In order to compile our cookbook, we utilized digital tools to create a printed book. In collaborating on the creation of the components, we used Google Docs. In the creation of the book layout, we used  Pages and Word, as well as photo software. Compiling the recipes required us to interview friends and family members whose culinary tastes influence our cooking styles. These interviews provided a greater understanding of our own culinary backgrounds and allowed us to provide greater insight into our own cooking and eating habits.

Final Reflections:
In exploring gastrography as a form of life writing, we have taken a variety of material from our lives and experiences and, centering these elements on the role of food, investigated the interaction of food with both community and personal identity. Gastrography, according to Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography, “designate[s] life writing that is closely linked to the production, preparation, or consumption of food” (271). Smith and Watson point out that gastrography can be employed to address wide-ranging issues such as the preservation of a unique cultural identity, colonization, or sustainability (271). As a cookbook, our gastrography goes beyond the general format of listing recipes by providing short reflections that explain the significance of the dish in our memories, lives, or relationships.

As a collaborative autobiography, A Call to Cook unifies the varied experiences with food that we have had as a result of our differences in family background, locality, and personal choice. Whereas Charles has grown up in the Charleston Lowcountry, eating seafood and enjoying signature Southern dishes, Crystal’s culinary experiences have been shaped by her mother’s Southwestern origins and her decision to avoid eating meat. These predilections characterize the recipes which are included in our cookbook and ultimately reveal a great deal about our backgrounds and lives. By situating each of our individual impressions and recipes with one another’s culinary experiences, our gastrography presents a wider range not only of foods but also of concepts. Through combining our reflections and recipes into one cookbook, we address a collective experience that, while touching on similar themes such as family and locality, allows for differences in interpretation.

Our gastrography functions within a number of the roles of self-life writing, seeking out the meaning contained in the seemingly simple necessity of preparing and consuming meals. For example, Crystal explores her ties to her family and enjoys the acknowledgement of her superb pumpkin pies in November’s entry, revealing the importance of tradition to the food that she cooks. By passing on an important family tradition to her, Crystal’s grandmother reinforces the relationship between food and relationships. On the other hand, Crystal’s recipes such as Curried Squash and Tempeh Hot “Wings” are major deviations from the foods which her family prepares, showing the development of personal tastes and choices in food paralleling the development of her identity. Charles’s recipe for Cheat’s Curry further represents this important function of our gastrographical project, as the act of making the dish serves to remind him of his ties to a friend and a community which played an important role during his year in Canada. By extending the importance of food and the interactions associated with its preparation and enjoyment into our lives with friends as well as family, we trace the development of self that characterizes the college years and young adult life.

The Process:

  • went through old journals and interviewed family and friends in order to come up with twelve recipes each
  • used Google Docs to work off each other and share ideas as we both individually created our recipes
  • created a 24 page word document of all the recipes
  • created our own printed version of the cookbook (to see this process click here)
  • created a blog on blogpsot.com so that more people could access the recipes and gastrographies (to see the blog click here)


Crystal Frost and Charles Carmody

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